I’ve never been one to get caught up in the latest diet craze. In fact, I’ve never dieted. I lead an active lifestyle and try to eat as clean as possible, but my late-night snacking habit was becoming a bit of a problem… So when I found myself interviewing someone who’d recently committed to the 8-Hour Diet, I figured it might be able to help. I decided to give it a go. For a week. Why not?
The low-down on the 8-Hour Diet
The 8-Hour Diet basically entails limiting your eating to an eight-hour period of the day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. You’re allowed to eat whatever you want, whenever you want – there are no restrictions.
But with zero food limitations, how do you actually drop kilos? “You will lose weight on any diet,” says Catherine Day, a registered dietician and author of Food for Sensitive Tummies, “if you create an energy gap.”
This gap occurs when you burn more energy than you store. But a diet also needs to be a healthy lifestyle change that you can maintain and that won’t bore you over time.
“For me, [the 8-Hour Diet] doesn’t foster a healthy relationship with food,” says Day. Of course it depends on what you eat, but given the “eat-what-you-want” rule, it’s likely to be unhealthy. “It’s a healthy relationship with food, rather than food deprivation, that will help you keep the weight off in the long term,” she says.
Intermittent fasting is said to kick-start your metabolism and aid weight loss. But Day doesn’t agree. “[The 8-Hour Diet] can foster an unhealthy eating routine, which could slow down your metabolism.”
What sounded like a great diet online was suddenly sounding like a foolish decision. But I wanted to see for myself. Here’s what happened…
Scales and meal prep
Day 1 introduced Obstacle #1: I don’t own a scale. But my friend does, so we had a big official weigh-in ceremony. With my weight recorded, the wind direction noted and the odds ever in my favour, the diet began in earnest.
My morning routine involves a 5am wake-up so I can be in the gym by 6am (I’m attending BOLD South Africa classes as part of my Women’s Health Staff Fitness Challenge, if you’re curious) – and by the time I’m finished at 7am, I’m starving. But with a small eight-hour window period in which to indulge, that meant a torturous wait until 10am to eat my first meal (or 9am when I couldn’t bear it). It also meant that supper had to be eaten by 5 or 6pm – a tough task for someone as disorganised as me.
Which leads me to the next challenge: meal prep – not something completely foreign, but not something I’ve nailed either. I’m no Amy Hoppy, but I did cram a few delectable meals into Tupperwares, ready to be packed for work. Breakfast, lunch and supper – sorted.
It started off well. Coffee tended to tide me over until my much-anticipated breakfast, and tea made up for the late-night snacking. I was committed and as soon as 5pm came around, all eating stopped. But it wasn’t easy – especially over the weekend, where social events and more exercise almost messed with my resolve.
I went to my parents for the weekend and, knowing Mom usually serves a late dinner, I knew I’d have to push back breakfast even further. How Saturday went: Wake up, go for run, return, head out for a cycle – still no breakfast! Did someone say hangry? Lunch became breakfast and by the time I was officially “allowed” to eat, I inhaled my food. Essentially, the diet became a “skipping breakfast” thing, which goes against my lifestyle entirely.
According to Day, although most athletes do require adequate nutrition for training, “we’re all different and some people like to train empty.” I guess I’m not one of those people…
After the weekend I returned, a little broken but still committed to the cause. I just needed to make it to Wednesday. I’d read online that some people lost a massive five kilos in the first week of this diet! Not that that sounds like a healthy plan and I hardly had 5kg to spare, but the final weigh-in was going to be interesting – or so I thought…
Back on the scale
At the end of my week-long 8-Hour Diet I returned to the scale for another weighing ceremony. I felt about the same as the week before – perhaps a bit hungrier – so I was excited to see what had happened to my body. Scale out, shoes off – the moment of truth. And get this: I weighed exactly the same, to the decimal. Not even a gram lighter. (Although with all the eating I’d been squeezing into the eight-hour gap, I was almost surprised I hadn’t put on weight.)
As much as it was a relief to get back to my normal routine, there are a few lessons that I’ll take from this experience. A snacking cut-off time in the evening is a really good idea. Meal prep is a must and drinking water is sometimes all you need, so step away from that biscuit Sharon.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
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